At 31-years-old, former University of Pittsburgh defensive tackle, Craig Bokor, is establishing quite the life for himself, and he is doing so in his hometown of Hopewell, Pennsylvania.
“It means a lot to me,” Craig said on living in Hopewell. “My wife and I kicked around the idea right when we were first about to get married. We were looking for a house in the North Hills somewhere, because we lived in the North Hills at the time, and we just couldn’t really find anything that we liked. We wanted to raise a family and start our lives, and our house came on the market that we currently live in. My wife kind of fell in love with it, and she said, ‘Craig, it’s in your hometown.’ And I said, ‘That’s fine with me.’ I didn’t even see it before she put an offer in and accepted it.
“It means a lot to me, because I’m in a little bit of a unique situation. A lot of my close friends have made their way back to the area. One of my best friends lives a couple doors down from me. It means a lot to me to be able to have close friends and family around my kids. My father is still in the area. My grandmother, who’s 95, she’s still in the area.”
“It’s also the community,” he added. “We really like the small town feel. There’s a lot of good people here, and a lot of people that care about the youth, and the kids, and the community. It means a lot for me to live here and to try to make a positive impact on the community.”
Craig resides in Hopewell with his wife, Katherine, and their five children. The couple met in passing shortly after the former defensive tackle graduated from Pitt, and have since given birth to two boys (Avery and Lincoln) and three girls (Emery, Piper and Pacey). While raising five children ranging from five-months to six-years-old can be hectic – specifically at bedtime, according to Craig – the Bokors feel blessed with their large family, especially after complications arose during the birth of their twin daughters, Emery and Piper.
“We didn’t know that we were blessed with twins until they were 21-weeks [along]. Shortly after that, at about 27-weeks, they were born. I think it was from the time that my wife went into labor to the time we went into the hospital, only an hour had gone by before [she had] an emergency C-section. They were both born with not a wonderful chance of surviving. But through a lot of prayer, the Lord delivered them from prematurity.
“It’s a little bit of an uplifting story, because my one daughter, Piper – their names are Piper and Emery – Piper had a really severe head bleed. With premature babies, their brains bleed a little bit and they grade the bleeds from a 1 to a 4: 1 being the lightest; 4 being the most severe. Piper’s was about a four. So it was a very serious situation, and we had been prepared for complications for the rest of her life. And not too long after that did the head bleed reverse.
“They’re perfect now. They’re 3-years-old, they’re thriving, they’re in preschool, and everything’s good.”
As a man of faith, Craig credits a higher power with delivering the Bokors through one of the most difficult times they will foreseeably endure as a family. However, the dedicated efforts of his wife, and the staff at Pittsburgh’s Western Pennsylvania Hospital, deserve their fair share of recognition.
“It was touch and go there,” Craig recalls. “[Emery and Piper] lived in the I.C.U. at West Penn for about four months. A lot of back-and-forth. My wife is a warrior; she stayed there with them at their bedside pretty much every day … They were born on the fifth of December , and they spent their first Christmas in their little incubators. But the hospital staff was wonderful. We were able to go there – we had our family over later in the day – but we went there first thing in the morning and we spent the morning with them. It was a very special atmosphere.”
With five healthy children at home, Craig and his wife do not plan on adding any more members to their family at this time.
“We kind of go along with the plan that the Lord sets out for us. But as far as we’re concerned, I think that all the Bokors that are going to be here, at least from our family, are here now.”
To provide for his family, Craig works as a human capital management consultant at ADP Major Accounts Services. Bokor, who graduated from Pitt with a major in legal studies and a minor in political science, feels “blessed” with the professional opportunity provided to him by ADP.
“ADP is a unique company, and I’m blessed to be a part of them,” he said. “I’ve been there for about seven years. It was really my first chance at a professional job. They took a chance on me seven years ago, and hopefully I give back to them as much as I can.
“What I do is I help larger companies efficiently align their benefits solutions with their human capital strategy. So basically, we help hire, develop and retain their employees. A lot of companies will call us, or bring us in, to consult for them – particularly in their H.R. department. They look for more efficient ways to manage people, more efficient ways to kind of do the day-to-day operations that set their bottom line. We kind of reshape, restructure, and move on to the next one and continue to help them to grow.”
Before Craig fathered five children and began working for ADP, he suited up on Saturdays for the Pitt Panthers. Bokor, a 3-star recruit and all-state performer for the Hopewell Vikings, spent a year at Valley Forge Military Academy prior to enrolling at Pitt. He started his career at offensive guard before moving to the defensive line for his final three seasons, and lettered in all four seasons in which he played. At defensive tackle, Bokor provided depth on a line that featured names like Ernest “Mick” Williams, Myles Caragein, Gus Mustakas, Chas Alecxih, Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard. And while he never earned All-Big East honors, Bokor exemplified the team-first attitude that enabled the 2009 Panthers’ squad to register the program’s first 10-win season since 1981, and finish ranked as a top-15 team.
“Overall, I was a team guy,” said Bokor. “I was a backup, and I was happy to be there. I was happy to provide my teammates with rest. I went out every day to obviously try to be a starter, and I would break the two-deep lineup here and there. That’s what I was. And I was a guy who helped my team prepare. When our starters needed rest, or they needed to miss a camp practice due to injury, I was going to be there to step up and make sure nobody missed a beat. It was a philosophy of mine that nobody was going to outwork me. They might be faster than me, more agile, but they weren’t going to outwork me. That was kind of my role.
“I learned a lot of about myself. All five years I was there, I enjoyed it. I learned a lot about football – not just how to play. You come up through the youth sports program and a lot of the time you’re born with it. You’re born to know how to play the game. I learned how to apply the game. I learned how to study the game – how to study plays, how to study players, [and] what coverages were. I really got a deep understanding of the X’s and O’s, and the hidden yardage, and all the things that are the science of football.”
The defensive tackle’s playing career ended with the conclusion of his final season at Pitt. Although he never received the opportunity to play in the N.F.L., Bokor quickly discovered that the lessons learned from playing football at Pitt translate well to all areas of life after football.
“While I would have loved to have continued to play, it perfectly aligned me for what I do today,” he said. “My time at Pitt taught me how to be successful. It taught me how to be a man. It taught me how to be accountable for myself. It taught me how to be accountable for my family and my friends. It drove my competitive spirit. I learned about competing amongst the best players around.
“And [playing football] helped my professional career. Quite honestly, the schedule you keep as a college football player made everything else in life very easy … especially with the kind of schedule Coach Wannstedt had us keep. My everyday life, while it’s busy, it’s nothing compared to that. It suited me for life.”
In addition to former head coach Dave Wannstedt, Craig credits two specific individuals on Wannstedt’s staff for preparing him for post-football life.
“One is Greg Gattuso. He’s now the head coach at Albany. He was one of the reasons I was able to develop a little bit of a football mind, because he really taught me how to apply that and how to be a coach. I never thought I wanted to be a coach until my son started being involved in sports, and I like it. I really do … Not only those things, [but] he really taught me about life – that there is life after football. I’ve always identified myself my entire life as an athlete, and shifting away from that and becoming a man, and a family man and a father, those were all things he was able to teach me and help me with.
“And the other is Chris LaSala, who [was] an assistant athletic director at Pitt. He actually lives in Hopewell, as well. He just taught me what it is to carry yourself with respect, and follow through on things, and just really care about graduating. He was one of the most influential people on me really deciding, ‘Hey, you’re probably not going to play football the rest of your life. Let’s focus on school, and your grades and learning.’ He was instrumental in that … He was always keeping tabs on you, making sure you’re ok. He texts me to this day – every year on my birthday – he texts me and tells me, ‘Happy birthday.’ He’s a standup guy and I owe a lot to him.
Craig remains in frequent touch with many of his former teammates, crediting social media as a means for easy communication. He even works with long snapper Kevin Barthelemy at ADP, and values their daily interactions. But while he and his former teammates can reminisce about their days in the blue and gold, Craig admits he misses a certain aspect of college football that is hard to replicate in life after football.
“Honestly, I miss competing physically. Now, me and my buddies, and our group around here, we play basketball. Basketball was always my favorite sport growing up and I enjoy playing it. So we all get together and we play a couple times a week, and I think that’s a little bit of a competitive outlet. But I really just miss putting everything into it, and training, and preparing your body and mind for a game and for competition. I miss being around the locker room, and coming together for a bowl [game], and that feeling of really going through preparation. And going through – I don’t want to say battle, because it’s not really battle – going through a competitive event with your teammates and people you’re with all the time.”
Craig grew up watching and attending Pitt football games with his father, and established Pitt as his dream school at an early age. To this day, he remains an avid fan of the team, and enjoys sharing the same experience with his sons that he did with his own father growing up.
“I watch two football games a week: I watch Pitt, and the Steelers on Sunday.” Craig added, “I watch every week, usually with my family … It’s one of the things I really look forward to with my sons is to sit down and watch the game.”
As a dedicated fan and an eternal member of the Pitt football family, Craig stays current on the state of the program and feels strongly about the program’s progress under Pat Narduzzi.
“I think what he’s done is phenomenal,” Craig asserted. “I remember one of the things that was the most jarring is I stopped in one time when I was out-and-about to see the head athletic trainer, Rob Blanc … and when I walked into the facility, I didn’t recognize it [with] what [Narduzzi’s] done with the locker room, and really making Pitt more of a spectacle than it already is. To me, it really didn’t matter. I grew up loving everything about Pitt, so it didn’t really matter what the facilities looked like. For top recruits and attracting top talent, that’s important. Also, his demeanor – the way he carries himself. The way that the players speak so highly of him.”
To further prove his appreciation and support for Pat Narduzzi, Bokor revealed that he keeps a picture of the Panthers’ coach on his desk. The photograph, captured during Pitt’s 23-20 road victory over Syracuse in 2015, was taken right before Chris Blewitt’s game-winning field goal as time expired, and it exemplifies the relationship Narduzzi shares with his players.
“[Coach Narduzzi] was kneeling down, arm-in-arm with his team,” Bokor said, describing the picture. “And it shows unity when we were kicking a field goal for the game. That just says so much about him, and his character, and about how he feels about the team and about the program. I couldn’t be happier with him being there. I hope he stays for a very long time.”
Craig unquestionably approves of the direction in which the Pitt football program is heading. While it may be premature to forecast the athletic future and personal interests of his son, Avery, Craig would fully support him if he were to one day pursue football at Hopewell, or even at the University of Pittsburgh.
“I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that would be a dream of his,” Craig said on the chances of Avery playing football. “I want him to do whatever he wants to do, if he’s a doctor, a lawyer, a landscaper, whatever that may be. As long as he gives it everything he has, and as long as he puts his faith and his family first, whatever he chooses to do in life is good with me. But he’s a very gifted athlete for his age. He really likes football and he really likes baseball. Right now he’s in a flag football league in Chippewa, Pennsylvania and he excels. And it’s something that he works on. He’s one of those kids that you don’t have to ask him to go out in the yard and play catch; he wants to do it. He really likes Antonio Brown, because they have the same initials, A.B. So he tries to be as much like him as he can.”
Aside from decompressing with a Sylvester Stallone movie, Craig’s primary hobby nowadays is spending time with his family. As a father of five, this allows little time for pursuing a hobby of his own. However, thanks to his extensive athletic acumen, Craig has found a way to both enjoy a hobby while simultaneously satisfying his role as a family-first father.
“Right now, my hobbies are my kids and spending time with my wife. But I’m really into the youth sports program in Hopewell, and trying to give back as much as I can and help in any way. We have a lot of good people that volunteer their time and I try to be there to support them. If you do any research on me or anything like that, I wasn’t – and still am not – the most talented person in the world. I wasn’t the greatest football player at Pitt, but I got there because I wanted to succeed more than I wanted to sleep. I wanted to succeed more than I wanted to hang out and party, or be cool. I wanted to be successful at my work. I know what it takes to get to that level. I know the sacrifices you have to make, and I know how you have to carry yourself.
“There are sports I don’t know a ton about, like soccer and baseball. I try to help the kids understand that if they want to succeed, they can’t be outworked. You can’t let anyone outwork you. My girls are in gymnastics, too, and we try to instill that in them. No matter what you do in life, your work ethic has to reflect that. I learned this at Pitt. Dave Wannstedt was my coach, [and] he always used to say, ‘What you get out of something is what you put into it.’ So if you put your whole self into it, no matter what it is, it’s very likely that the end result is going to be success. But if you don’t try, if you don’t work, you’re not going to reap those rewards. It’s going to be exactly what you put into it.”
According to Craig, the youth athletic programs in Hopewell are outstanding for children and parents alike. He specifically credits Dave Gill and the active leaders of the Hopewell Youth Baseball Association for doing a “darn good job” running the youth baseball program in his hometown, calling them “guys that will stop by your house when your kids are out playing and tell them they’re doing a good job.”
The future is filled with promise for Craig Bokor. At 31-years-old, he already has the family of his dreams and a rewarding job that enables him to provide for those he loves. But for a goal-oriented, driven former athlete, there is always room for growth. Not only does Craig envision bettering himself and his family in the upcoming years, he also plans on applying that athlete’s drive towards giving back to the town he will always call “home.”
“Where I see my life is right here, my wife and I continuing to raise our children, continuing to grow professionally at ADP, and really just being there for my kids and helping them do whatever they want to do in life. And if that’s sports – I’ve got a younger son growing up now that will be in the [athletic] program, so I’m going to be involved for a very long time.
“Honestly, my goal, especially for [Hopewell], is to influence it any way I can, if that’s coaching, if that’s accepting coaching positions, if that’s accepting school board positions, or a political position in the area to help develop what people have worked hard to get to now. Our football program has kind of – they had a good season last year – kind of leveled out as of late. If I can be a part of revitalizing that, telling some of my stories about Pitt and what it takes. I can really see me and my family having a positive impact on the youth in our town now … If that’s through sports or economically, helping to get some more businesses around here [or] helping to attract more revenue, I can see myself and my family trying to lead the charge to help do that.”
At one point growing up, Craig shed 100-pounds on the “Subway Diet” to lose weight for football. A man with that level of discipline can be trusted to succeed, and the city of Hopewell can feel confident that Craig and his family will have plenty to offer for years to come.